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Advancing Philanthropy

Writing the Perfect Fundraising Email

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns rely heavily on email appeals. Nonprofits create template emails for supporters to use and supporters send out lots of emails to family and friends. Unfortunately, it’s fairly common for both nonprofits and supporters to struggle with writing a fundraising email that moves people to action.

 

The truth is that there is no universal formula that you can follow to get the ‘perfect’ fundraising email every time. Life’s just a bit too complicated for that. There are best practices though, and following them can help you make your message as effective as possible.

 

What follows below is a two part discussion on some of those best practices. The first part focuses on how nonprofits should approach creating a template fundraising email and the second part discusses how supporters should work to tailor that template. Keep in mind that this is about creating fundraising emails for peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Some of the points made here may also apply to general e-mail marketing or direct mail, but those are really separate topics.

 

PART I- Creating the Fundraising Email Template

image of StayClassy interface for entering default fundraising email

 From your StayClassy dashboard you can create a template fundraising email appeal for each campaign.

 

The key to writing a successful template fundraising email is taking most (if not all) of the work away from your supporters. The less editing they have to do, the greater the chance that they will send the email out to their friends and family in the first place. There are certain aspects of the message- like mission details and calls to action- that the nonprofit will be in a better position to write. It’s critical that you take care of those ahead of time so the supporters don’t have to do unnecessary research.

 

 Here are some other tips to keep in mind as you draft your template fundraising email:

 

1. Establish the Arc

Just like a good book or movie has an arc to its plot, your template fundraising email should have a basic structure and rhythm as well. At a fundamental level, you want to make sure you are introducing the problem that needs to be solved, demonstrating that there is a solution to that problem, and ending with a strong call to action that invites potential supporters to become a part of the solution. These elements should always be present because they answer the basic questions anyone receiving the message is likely to have. Why should I care? Will my support do anything to help? What do you want me to do?

 

2. Make it Emotionally Relevant

People are primarily motivated to give by their emotions. Your communication should activate those emotions. One way to do this is by inviting the reader to momentarily step into the shoes of the affected person. If you can get readers to imagine themselves as being personally affected, it makes it easier for them to empathize with the people your organization is trying help. Another good approach is to highlight a real-life example of someone who has been affected by the cause. People find it easiest to relate to specific examples that conjure up vivid mental imagery.

 

3. Tangible Impact and Clear Call to Action

Creating your arc involves introducing the problem, showing that there’s a solution to that problem, and asking potential supporters to become a part of the solution. When you are presenting the solution and the call to action, it’s important to make sure you highlight how supporters will make a tangible impact. One way to do this is by correlating your campaign’s default fundraising goal with a specific programmatic outcome. For example, if the default goal is $250, then the text might read something like: “$250 will fund a full year’s education for five children in the developing world. Join me in making this happen by making a donation to my page!”

 

4. Control the Length

Now for the fun part, you need to condense your message into only a couple of paragraphs. It may seem tough, but it’s very important to resist the temptation to keep writing. If your message is too long, many people won’t take the time to read it. Ideally you want to condense the fundraising email into two short paragraphs.  There’s no doubt that you can think of many other wonderful things to say about your organization, but your fundraising email really isn’t the place for that.

To give you an idea of what it might look like to put all of this together, here’s a sample fundraising email  a nonprofit might come up with as a template:

 

Hi Friends,

 

(INSERT PERSONAL STORY)

 

I know it’s hard to do, but can you imagine what it would be like if you lost a family member to the war? Think of how your world would change if you suddenly lost your parent, your child, your sibling. Sadly, many families in our community are facing this emotionally devastating reality, and many have no access to the help they need to cope and heal.

 

I have committed to fundraising (INSERT DEFAULT GOAL) for Great Org, an organization working tirelessly to provide counseling to military families that have lost a loved one.  (INSERT DEFAULT GOAL) is enough to fund family counseling for a local family for a whole year.

 

Please join me in helping support a family in need by making a donation to my page:

 

www.stayclassy.org/mypage

 

Your friendship and support mean a lot to me,

 

(NAME)

PART II- Helping Supporters Personalize the Message

 Supporters can personalize the template and send emails right from their fundraising pages.

 

As important as it is to provide supporters with a solid template they can use for guidance, they are more likely to receive positive responses if they take the next step and personalize the template. Keeping this in mind, here are a couple tips about when and how supporters should be personalizing messages.  We suggest sending this information to your fundraisers after they initially set up a page.

1. Encourage Supporters to Add a Personal Connection to the Template

When supporters use the template message you’ve created, they should always include a note about how the cause has affected them personally. This accomplishes two things (1) it further legitimizes the message in the eyes of the reader and (2) it helps the reader to empathize with the beneficiaries of the fundraising effort. Consider, for example, the difference between the following two openings:

 

“Hi Friends,

 

I am fundraising for Great Org, an organization dedicated to supporting military families by providing counseling and other resources….”

 

“Hi Friends,

Most of you know that my brother Bill deployed to Afghanistan for the second time last year. I decided to do something to honor him by fundraising for Great Org…

 

The second opening is obviously more powerful. Because the speaker has demonstrated a strong personal connection to the cause, she has enhanced legitimacy to speak on the topic (making readers more receptive to hearing her out).The second opening also makes it easier for readers to connect emotionally. It’s easier for us to empathize with people we already know. When a supporter explains how she has been directly impacted, it helps people in her network to empathize and connect emotionally with the cause.

 

2. Let Supporters Know When to Rely on the Template

The template fundraising email is best used for general appeals (when supporters send a message out to multiple contacts). The best way for supporters to reach out to friends and family, however, is to have them send individual emails to close contacts first and general appeals after. Let supporters know that the template isn’t really meant for their closest contacts. Those messages should be as personalized as possible.

Continuing our example from before, here’s a sample fundraising email after it’s been personalized by a supporter:

 

Hi Friends,

 

Most of you know that my brother Bill deployed to Afghanistan for the second time last year and he just returned from his most recent tour. I am thankful everyday that he made it back safely. I’m also aware that many others, including some of my brother’s friends, did not make it back. As a tribute to Bill, I’ve decided to do something to help out military families that have lost a loved one.

 

I know it’s hard to do, but can you imagine what it would be like if you lost a family member to the war? Think of how your world would change if you suddenly lost your parent, your child, your sibling. Sadly, many families in our community are facing this emotionally devastating reality, and many have no access to the help they need to cope and heal.

 

I have committed to fundraising $5,000 for Great Org, an organization working tirelessly to provide counseling to military families that have lost a loved one. $5,000 is enough to fund family counseling for a local family for a whole year.

 

Please join me in helping support a family in need by making a donation to my page:

 

www.stayclassy.org/mypage

 

Your friendship and support mean a lot to me,

 

Jody

Ready to Raise More Money Online?

 

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